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Yard work and the quest for hot water. | VRChristensen

Yard work and the quest for hot water.


Like the previous (and original) owners of our house in South Carolina, the owner of our new house was a naturalist. I think it just means they didn’t have the inclination to do yard work, but the official statement seems to be “all nature should be allowed to live (and grow) to the full measure of its creation.” When the house went into foreclosure it was overrun by ivy and wisteria, similyx, and shrubbery of all kinds. Mulberries and hackberries were growing right up against the house, scraping their branches against the windows, and, in some cases, breaking the glass. Once the foreclosure company took it over, they did clear out much of the ivy and wisteria and other climbing vines, and even some of the weedy trees. What was left, however, were about 50 100 year old boxwoods. At one time they must have been planted as a sort of border, because they are about twelve feet away from the house and fenceline. And there’s still a ton of ivy, some has grown so thick that it’s begun to form tree-like trunks. There remains a cedar tree growing against the back side of the house and it leans on the phone line. That tree has to come out, but I’ll have to hire it done. On each side is a dogwood tree. They’re clearly very old, and really quite charming, only one of them has a huge hole in the middle of the trunk where it’s rotting itself out. The trees probably need to come out. The have bloomed however, and for now, it seems they are staying.

A month into our residence here and we are still without hot water. My neighbor who is a plumber offered his opinion. He didn’t think it should be a complicated matter, but he had to look into the code before he could give us an estimate on the installation of a water heater. The water previously was heated by the boiler, which has not really worked for five or six years (during which time the previous owner was still in residence.) I wasn’t sure where we would come up with the extra money. We had some set aside for emergencies, but then, after all, perhaps this was an emergency. About that time, our landlords from the place we were renting, returned our entire deposit, which I wasn’t expecting them to do, so right there we had the money for a water heater. Or so I thought. So I bought one from Lowe’s website.

In the mean time, we’re trying to get a loan to update the systems, and even though I know (pretty much) who I would hire to have the work done, we have to get multiple estimates, and they have to be from contractors. I find this so annoying. Nothing stresses me out more than talking to contractors. I found an electrician and a plumber I can trust. Why do I now have to deal with contractors? So we asked around and got several recommendations.

The first came, and I felt pretty good about it. He seemed to be a good guy, and he used the electrician we had already decided we liked, and so that was no big deal. He had a plumber, too, whose name I’d heard as reputable, and his heating guy was one of the ones I’d already spoken to, but had yet to get an estimate from. So far I wasn’t too worried.

With a good friend, I began tackling the overgrown ivy in the front yard. Two days of hacking and digging and chopping and pruning, and I had the front near the curb cleared out. We even found an old sign that had been put up and covered over with ivy. I decided to leave it. I liked it. And I rather liked the ivy that was trying to take it over. The trunk (for lack of a better term) had wrapped itself around the sign in such a way that to take out one would be to take out both. But I found it charming, and so left it. I’m hoping the ivy will grow back just enough to frame the sign.

The next day the second contractor came, and every job I wanted him to do was 10x more complicated than I had intended or felt it should be. Instead of just updating the electrical service, the whole house needed to be rewired or the insurance company wouldn’t accept it. I knew this wasn’t true. And we do intend to rewire what we can, bit by bit, but for now, it’s about having adequate service. When it came to the plumbing, it was all just so complicated. The plumbing was all over the house (in reality, the bathrooms are stacked above the kitchen and powder room, the asbestos would have to be dealt with (it’s an unfinished basement-yes the insulation should be updated, but that’s another thing we can do in time) and as far as installing a water heater… Well it just doesn’t get more complicated. The water heater would have to be vented up the chimney (which we had hoped to be able to restore for use with gas coal baskets in the fireplaces) and up to the roof top. A chimney cap would be required, and it would no doubt run us thousands of dollars, but it HAD to be done! My husband came home about that time and asked the gentleman what he thought, and he said it was all just so complicated he could hardly wrap his head around it. Not a good sign in my books. He looked at the repairs on the house, the paint, the landscaping. Just so much to do! True, but he was only there for the systems. Seemed pretty simple to me. But I was discouraged about the water heater.

And where was that water heater? I hadn’t yet heard from Lowe’s about delivery? I called them. It seemed I had ordered a special order model, and it would be there in approximately three weeks. Three weeks?!?!? I can’t wait that long for hot water! I cancelled the order, they connected me with the local store, and I purchased one they had in stock.

I knew by now I needed to call water and gas to see if I truly did have gas running to the property. We could find no meter, but since there were still gas jets and outlets in the walls from years gone by, I knew there had been gas at one time. And there were gas lines under the house that fed to the fireplaces on the first floor. The question remained, however, was there still a gas service to the property?

In the mean time, a third contractor came out and thought the venting for the water heater should be simple. But all these differing opinions were confusing me. My neighbor checked with the inspector and it turns out that a regular water heater would need to vent through the chimney, but a high efficiency could go out the wall.

Was the one I ordered from Lowe’s high efficiency? Uh…no. So I went into the store and cancelled that order as well.

By now I had made up my mind that the boxwoods in the front had to go.

Water and gas came and showed me where the meter had been. Under the house! No wonder we couldn’t find it. I had never thought to look under the house. The guy told me to go ahead and have the plumbing done for the water heater (and my gas stove) and they would test the lines, and if the lines were sound, they’d set the meter where it had been. If they were not, they’d redo the lines and set the meter outside.

And then the third contractor came. He seemed reliable and honest, and came with high recommendations from more than one friend. He also used the same electrician we liked, and the plumber we had, by now, been hearing so much about. The plumber came, and he really seemed to know his stuff. He said it had to be a power vent model, and it could go out the side of the house, only not out the nearest side, since there was no place that was four feet from a window and not blocked by the chimney. He could vent it out the other side of the house, though, and that would not be too big of a problem. His estimate came in at roughly $1,900, which was a bit more than I had hoped to spend, but the price included a water heater, so I figured I could do it. The money I had set aside for the installation would pay for the water heater, and the money we got back from our previous landlords, which I had intended to use for the water heater, would pay for the installation.

He arrived the following Tuesday as promised and began running the lines. Wednesday I had the day off and looked forward to the finished product of his labors. Though of course I wasn’t sure how long it would take to set the meter. Wednesday he didn’t show. Turns out the water heater didn’t come in. Thursday, however, he was there, and had arranged for the inspector and the city to come out and set the meter. I was excited to say the least. I was looking forward to a good long soak in my clawfoot bathtub that overlooked my neighbor’s blooming cherry trees. The plumber (wise man that he is) cautioned me not to hold my breath about having the meter set that day.

Water and gas came, and what ensued was a heated argument between five of their representatives about where the lines were and whether they had been disconnected, and where was the gas, and what FOOL told me they could just set a meter under the house??? My plumber was interviewed. I was interviewed. The answers were found lacking. The gentlemen argued some more. They would have to do some digging to locate the lines, and if they had to re-lay them and set a meter outside…well, I still had four or five boxwoods blocking the path. I assured them, that, if required, I could take them out that night. “But you have to get the ROOTS and all,” they insisted. I assured them I could. They told me it would be hard. That I should tie them to my car and pull them out. (I have a Volvo. It ain’t happenin’.) But my plumber, wonderful man that he is, told them he had witnessed my boxwood removing efforts and assured them I was up to the challenge.

That is a first, I’m telling you. I’ve *never* in my life had someone back me like that.

So back to the water and gas. Well, the next day they came out, dug about the sidewalk and found the old lines. The next three days it poured down rain, while we waited for the state engineers, or whatever, to come mark the utilities. At last and at LAST they came, a week later, to block off the street, cut into the pavement and reset the gas lines. It took them the better part of the day, but in that ONE day, I at last had hot water AND gas to my stove!

Talk about deprivation. I think I’ve done my camping for the summer. If only I didn’t have to go on that blasted Trek reenactment a month from now. Ah well. At least I can say I’ve had some practice.

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